Wednesday, 26 August 2009

Future Shock: 30 years on

Alvin Toffler's Future Shock has won so many recommendations that I was afraid it will prove to be pop pulp. Finally I got over my prejudice and read the book. I was wrong.

30 years on, the book's numerous predictions are more accurate than any other I've ever come across (but please do enlighten me if you know better). He is right about the present. Consider this for example:

In the three short decades between now and the twenty-first century, millions of ordinary, psychologically normal people will face an abrupt collision with the future. Citizen’s of the world’s richest and most technologically advanced nations, will find it increasingly painful to keep up with the incessant demand for change that characterizes our time. For them, the future will have arrived too soon. (p.11)

For the acceleration of change ... is a concrete force that reaches deep into our personal lives, compels us to act out new roles, and confronts us with with the danger of a new and powerfully upsetting psychological disease. (p.12)

Future shock is a time phenomenon, a product of the greatly accelerated rate of change in society. It arises from the superimposition of a new culture on the old one[:] a culture shock in one's own society. ....

Take an individual out of his own culture and set him down suddenly in an environment sharply different from his own, with a different set of cues to react to—different conceptions of time, space, work, love, religion, sex, and everything else—then cut him off from any hope of retreat to a more familiar social landscape, and the dislocation he suffers is doubly severe. Moreover, if this new culture is itself in constant turmoil, and if—worse yet—its values are incessantly changing, the sense of disorientation will be still further intensified. ... The victim may become a hazard to himself and others.

Now imagine not merely an individual but an entire society, an entire generation—including its weakest ... members—suddenly transported into this new world. The result is mass disorientation, future shock on a grand scale.

This is the prospect that man now faces. (p. 14)

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